The transition from summer holidays to school can be tough on parents and children alike, but prioritising sleep can help you complete it smoothly
It’s a time that children dread and parents rejoice: back to school season. Families up and down the country are getting themselves get back in to the swing of drop offs, pick ups, homework and after-school clubs.
But this transition can take some getting used to, particularly when it comes to bedtime. A lot of children enjoy later bedtimes and lazier mornings during the summer holidays, so having to get up and dressed for school can come as a shock to the system.
Sleep is vital for concentration, memory and learning – all key factors during the school day. A good sleep schedule can also reduce a child’s risk of obesity, diabetes and heart health concerns, and helps tackle issues like hyperactivity and irritability.
So, if you’re trying to get your young ones back into some semblance of a routine, here’s what can you do now to sharpen up that daily rhythm?
Consistency is key
Keeping a consistent sleep schedule is key, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your child’s body clock, meaning they’ll feel tired and awake when they’re supposed to.
In the lead up to school starting again, begin to gradually set earlier bedtimes and wake-up times. Adjusting their bedtime by 15 minutes a night gives them a chance to get used to their new schedule, so they aren’t tossing and turning on the night before school starts.
Prioritise wind down time
In order to encourage your kids to head to bed a little earlier, designate an hour or so in the run up to bedtime as relaxation time. Whether it’s reading a book, hearing a bedtime story, taking a warm bath or something else entirely, establishing a quiet period before bed creates consistency and encourages relaxation.
Turn off screens
One rule you should lay down for this wind down time is this: no screens allowed. Turn off the TV, smartphones and tablets in the hour before bed, and this can result in information overload that makes it hard to relax. What’s more, the artificial light emitted by these devices can disrupt the body’s release and vital sleep hormones like melatonin.
Your child’s sleep environment is just as important as their bedtime activities. Make sure the bedroom is cool, dark and devoid of screens – blackout blinds are a good investment here – and supportive, high quality bedding can help you prioritise comfort in your bedrooms.
You might not think of caffeine as an issue for children, as they’re unlikely to be indulging in after dinner espressos, but many of the leading sodas and sugary drinks are chockful of caffeine that can interrupt your child’s natural sleeping patterns. Make the swap from pop to squash or juice in order to reduce their intake of caffeine, especially in the lead up to bedtime.
Give time for digestion
Like caffeine, big meals and spicy foods can disrupt your child’s sleep behaviours if consumed too close to bedtime. Allow plenty of time for digestion by making teatime several hours before bed. You should also try to avoid giving your child oversized portions as these can be harder to digest, increasing their risk of discomfort and indigestion.